Eagle Eye Explainer: How Tyrone Became the Golden Eagles

Credit for the name goes to Tyrone High Class of 1934 grad Samuel Burnham

In 1932, the Tyrone High School student newspaper ran a contest asking students to suggest a new name for the school’s sports teams.


In the early 1900s, it was unusual for high school sports teams in the United States to have an official nickname. Names and mascots were often given to teams by local sportswriters or fans and used informally or not at all.

Sam Burnham yearbook photo
Samuel N. Burnham, seen here in his 1934 senior yearbook photo, gets credit for being the “Father of Tyrone’s Golden Eagle mascot” in 1932 (1934 Falcon Yearbook)

Prior to 1932, Tyrone High School sports teams were referred to by several names, including the Falcons, the Orangemen, and the Orange and Black.

The football team was sometimes called the “Menschites” or the “Menschmen” after their beloved coach, Walter F. Mensch.

But as universities and high schools across the United States started to adopt official school mascots to bring the student body together and cheer on their blossoming sports teams, Tyrone decided it was time to choose a name that could be applied to all the school’s athletic teams.

On January 26, 1932, the Tyrone High School student newspaper (and predecessor to the Eagle Eye) The Spokesman, ran a front-page contest asking students to submit their ideas for a new nickname for Tyrone’s sports teams, one that could be used by all the school’s teams (click the photo slideshow above to see the original story).

The rules of the 1932 contest were as follows:

  • “No names such as The Orangemen, The Menschmen, etc. or any other name now in common use will be considered.”
  • The name must “fit in with any sport.”
  • “Do not make the name too long, two or three words should be sufficient.”
  • The name “Must have some atmosphere about it relating to Tyrone High.”
  • “The names will be judged generally on cleverness or appropriateness.”

According to The Spokesman, four esteemed judges would choose the winning name. They were Major B. C. Jones of the Tyrone Herald, THS football coach Walter F. Mensch, Superintendent of Schools W W. Eisenhart, and A.V. Vanneman from the Athletic Board of Control.

In his book The Tyrone Football Story, local historian Kerry Naylor said that the committee narrowed the list of possible names down to four finalists: the Crusaders, the Orange Flash, the Trojans, and the Golden Eagles.

The next mention of the contest in The Spokesman was a month later in the Tuesday, February 24, 1932 edition when the winning name was announced.

This coupon was published in the January 26, 1932 edition of the Spokesman for students to submit their ideas for the TAHS team nickname. (The Tyrone Spokesman)

The January 26 Spokesman story said that the winning name would be chosen by a committee of four men, however, the February 24 article suggests that the student body voted for the winning name.

“Of the four names submitted to the students by the judges, the ‘Golden Eagles’ was chosen by the majority,” said the article in The Spokesman.

Regardless of whether the final choice was made by a committee or a student vote, the article credits Tyrone High School sophomore and member of The Spokesman student newspaper Samuel Burnham for submitting the winning name.

For his effort, Burnham won season tickets for all Tyrone High athletic events for one year, as well as the honor of naming the mascot that Tyrone High School has kept for the past 90 years.

According to Tyrone historian and retired TAHS English teacher Richard Merryman, after graduating in 1934 Burnham worked on the family farm near Birmingham for twenty years. He was also employed by Engleman’s Greenhouse, O’Rourke’s Upholstery and Market, and served sixteen years with the Huntingdon Developmental Workshop, where he helped find employment for mentally challenged youth. Burnham passed away in 2006 at the age of 90.

Spokesman story
Click the slideshow above to read the1932 Tyrone Spokesman article announced the contest to choose an official name for the Tyrone High School sports teams (Image from the 1932 Tyrone Spokesman Student Newspaper )